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Dynamic Ice-Wallow Relief of Northern Alaska's Nearshore
Erk Reimnitz, Edward Kempema
Contour maps with 0.5-m depth interval were prepared for a small area seaward of Reindeer Island, a barrier island in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska, by repeated surveys with very accurate navigation and very close trackline spacing. The maps reveal numerous closed depressions and mounds about 50 to 100 m in diameter and 2 to 3 m in relief, presumably related to grounded ice floes common in the area year round. Some of the features were obliterated over the course of three seasons while new ones formed. Although the depressions resemble kettles, they are formed by very different mechanisms. We believe that these bedforms represent erosion and deposition caused by: a) intensified flow around stationary ice floes serving as obstacles and b) pulsating currents generated by vertical oscillation or rocking motions of grounded floes in a seaway. Because sediment transport occurs around the ice, not where it directly touches the sea floor, the depressions are much larger than the base of the acting floes.
Ice-wallow bedforms, although not found everywhere, are characteristic of arctic nearshore regions with non-cohesive sediments, and most likely occur in other ice-stressed coastal environments in differing degrees. The bedforms studied here are highly active and must be considered in planning nearshore construction activities.
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